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  • They Call Me George

  • The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada
  • Written by: Cecil Foster
  • Narrated by: Dillon Taylor
  • Length: 12 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A CBC Books Must-Read Nonfiction Book for Black History Month

Nominated for the Toronto Book Award

Smartly dressed and smiling, Canada’s black train porters were a familiar sight to the average passenger - yet their minority status rendered them politically invisible, second-class in the social imagination that determined who was and who was not considered Canadian. Subjected to grueling shifts and unreasonable standards - a passenger missing his stop was a dismissible offense - the so-called Pullmen of the country’s rail lines were denied secure positions and prohibited from bringing their families to Canada, and it was their struggle against the racist Dominion that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Drawing on the experiences of these influential black Canadians, Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George demonstrates the power of individuals and minority groups in the fight for social justice and shows how a country can change for the better.

©2019 Cecil Foster, 2019 (P)2020 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about They Call Me George

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Listen: My Father was a Sleeping Car Porter!

This is an excellent CANADIAN history book that needs to be included in the high school curriculum. I am very eager to learn more of this history and want my children to learn this as well. I believe it is so important for educators to be looking to include such diverse historical accounts. I appreciate that Canadian immigration was critically discussed by Foster as I have one parent from the Caribbean and one from Europe. I know that my white European ancestors had an easier time immigrating to Canada with fewer restrictions. I learned that history on my own but I wish I would have learned this in my history class.

The performance was very good. But I would have liked if they would have casted a Black man to read the story of Black men and their difficulties to getting decent work, pay, and respect in Canada. I wonder if a Black narrator was not available. As a Black woman it was very obvious to me that the narrator, while excellent, did not sound like a Black man and for me this was a distraction when I was trying to listen to the story.

As a devil's advocate, I will say that our history is for more than just Black people. it should be history that ALL Canadians read. So in that regard, it is perhaps appropriate to have a great narrator of any colour first as opposed to a great Black narrator.

20 people found this helpful

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A Fascinating look at honest Canadian History!

This book rights a bit of Canadian historical ignorance about some of its heroes.

7 people found this helpful

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A must read regarding Multiculturalism in Canada

I now understand my grandfather's experiences in Canada, moving here in the 50s from the Caribbean. Ones he wouldn't talk about in the workplace. I also understand my Alberta history in a new light. There were systems that needed to be challenged so I could experience more opportunities in my native land. There are still many perceptions that must continue to be questioned and discredited. I won't take my life for granted, ever again.

5 people found this helpful

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Jim Crow in Canada

A humbling true story of racism in Canada and the heroic battle by those oppressed to create a foundation for change. Yes, more work to be done. Well written and researched.

4 people found this helpful

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Strong history context

Excellent history about past restrictions in Canadian immigration and the role the sleeping car porters played in paving the way for a new generation of Black immigrants to Canada.

4 people found this helpful

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Wow…. This should also be part of Canada’s education curriculum

This audible took me a little while in the beginning to actually grasp what the author’s point was - then I realized it was how sleeping car porters came to be and how they were never given a raise or allowed a promotion for almost a century.

This audiblis a very interesting historical long time to start to really understand get through for many reasons. This audible book covers almost a century of Porters rights in Canada and it was blocked all the way because of the colour or their skin.

I used to think Canada was forward thinking but now realize Canada was bottom of the list and most likely most racist.

Even Prime Ministers right up until the 70’s disgusting…. I’m still shaking my head.

I only hope we can glean peace at some point from learning about this not violence because I’m surprised that there were no uprisings like the government would imply in their reasons why people of colour were not worthy of better pay/ or living situations.

Can you imagine working 24 hours no pay and not allowed tips and no money for food but if you went home to eat you were terminated? Because the rules said that but if your skin had a no colour those rules did not apply.

Their human rights were violated but they kept their dignity in tact.

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Informative, dense Canadian history

I struggled with the format and narration of this book and put it aside several times before pushing through. Definitely glad that I did, as a number of the later chapters were very compelling, particularly those that chronicled the struggles of specific black porters in their battle for fair treatment in the workplace, or that highlighted Canada’s arbitrary and racist immigration policies over the years.

As a 50-something white Canadian, I was surprised and saddened to learn about Canada’s racist immigration and labour policies that endured in law almost to the time of my birth.

The book’s format was a struggle for me. It jumped back and forth in time, always returning back to a somewhat arbitrary event in 1954 - a delegation’s visit to Ottawa. Although I supposed this helps to anchor the narrative, it results in unnecessary repetition. The narration was also frustratingly slow and choppy at times, which sapped my interest.

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Hiddeb Black History

I absolutely love and appreciate the history and all that this book offers. I love how Foster did not centre himself in the telling of these stories but rather allow the storytellers to tell their own stories.

The stories capture the nuances of anti-Black racism and how it played out in the lives and on the bodies of Black men. The dehumanizing experiences and the exploitative conditions that the men experienced and their consequences are made very clear in this book.

This book allows us to see how being Black rarely changes Black people's experiences but we see how being white, Jewish or Irish for example, changes people's experiences over time. Being white becomes acceptable while Black is Always unacceptable.

I appreciate seeing the activism and collaboration amongst different groups of immigrants that were stigmatized, stereotyped and systematically marginalized. This supports Bromley Armstrong's stories in his book.

Foster gives us a glimpse into the rationale for trade unions and government changing white supremacist anti-Black racist policies and practices. We can see that the changes came because of shifting transportation and economic needs and not because of equity.

The only thing I wonder about in this book is where are the women? Often when we write history, Black women are written out of them. In this book, Black women were not even given the space of a footnote.

So while Black women were not Porter's, where were they and what roles did they play to support the Black men who were doing the activism? It seems unlikely that they would not be activists as well. What experiences did they have during this time?

Some of today's activist could take some lessons from these historical figures with respect to working together and forging alliances with otters.

Thank you Cecil Foster.
Well done

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Great Canadian History Lesson

I picked this audible book up mainly as I was interested in learning more about Canada's History from a racial perspective and I was not disappointed.

This book provides an excellent history lesson on how racist Canada was in it's past with regards to many of it's immigration policies and how it kept non-white individuals out of positions of any real power. The stories of the Railway Porters are intertwined within this history lesson in a very engaging way. This is a story that should be included in history lessons today. Aside from the racist policies existing during these times (existent up to early 1970s) there is very interesting information about the West Indies and how, despite their embracing of British Culture they were never considered more than second class people, which is just horrible. I also learned that the West Indies were looking to join Canada but were rejected mostly due to the high black population of those islands. Unforgiveable!

Since this was an audible review, I must say the individual who read this story was a little more monotone and a bit dry for my liking. The story itself, while very informative, was also a bit dry in it's writing style but then it's also written more like a history lesson so that may be par for the course in that case.

Overall, this is a 4-star audible book with 5 stars for the information you will get from within. If you want to learn more about the history of Canada you don't get from High School, read this book!

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Important part of Canadian history

This is a much needed work to outline the contributions of Black people is building a “multicultural” Canada. Every Canadian should know the work that Black sleeping car porters put in to allow all non-white people to freely immigrate into Canada. This should be taught in schools, if it was, we wouldn’t have a lot of the racial issues we currently have in this country of Canada. Great piece of work, i commend Cecil Foster for putting this work together so the contributions and sacrifices of so many Black people, will not be forgotten. One Love.